A young child goes into the opening at the tail of a life-sized blow-up whale. The black plastic whale took up almost the entire length of Big Sky's gym and visitors were sent inside with glowsticks to get a sense of the size.

After a three-year hiatus, Big Sky High School’s Science Circus returned with a goal of bringing the wonder of science to Missoula.


Big Sky High School junior Tamara Sagato holds a goat kid, kneeling down to show 3-year-old Tannisa. Big Sky's Science Circus featured a petting zoo with goats ducks and pigs.

Big Sky students use what they learned in their science classes to fill the school’s main and auxiliary gyms with projects and experiments. Students were encouraged to explore projects including flaming gummy bears, planting flowers, elephant’s toothpaste and many more.


Big Sky sophomore Cash Bolenbaugh tries out a muscle stimulator controlled by senior Weston Mccullough as Braden Auerbach watches and laughs. Mccullough says that watching visitors test out the stimulator was his favorite part of the Science Circus.

The comeback of the Science Circus is thanks in part to University of Montana student Virginia Tobiason. Tobiason, 40, is set to graduate with her master’s of education in broadfield science in May. She’s also been student teaching at Big Sky in the science department. 


Mercedes Gordon holds three cockroaches to show visitors. Gordon has spent her senior year working on a research project with the insects and says she loves teaching people about them. "With kids it's really fun to see their reaction to the bugs and watch them interact with them."

Originally from Ohio, she moved to Missoula in 2000 to get her undergraduate degree at UM in microbiology and medical technology. After that she spent time researching at UM and Rocky Mountain Labs before realizing research wasn’t what she was passionate about.


Junior Lariah Andrade holds up a bubble of soap filled with the gas from dried ice for a visitor to pop. The students ran each booth with interactive experiments and demonstrations to give the community a chance to experience science in fun ways.

Once she had children, Tobiason found that she enjoyed helping out in the classroom and even organized a science night at her kids’ school, which she said was inspired by bringing her kids to Big Sky’s Science Circus. 

“I really realized how much I enjoyed and loved teaching science and seeing the looks of when the students realize something and they see how cool it can be, they just brighten up,” Tobiason said.


Big Sky senior Gus Turner drills a hole into a round slice of wood so that he can tie a string to it and give it to a young visitor to take home. Turner say he enjoyed sharing his knowledge with young kids and hopes that it will get them excited about going to science class.

With the interruptions of COVID-19 and construction at Big Sky, the Science Circus hasn’t taken place since 2019. But Tobiason mentioned wanting to help bring it back, and the science teachers at Big Sky quickly jumped on board to pull it together. 

“This was a huge group effort,” she said. “I could not have done it without the teachers and the administration here at Big Sky. They’ve been so supportive and so helpful.” 


A young visitor squints to look into a telescope at Big Sky High School's Science Circus on Friday, April 8. The science department at Big Sky brought the annual event back after a three-year hiatus.

She became the main organizer of the event and made sure the day ran smoothly.

Tobiason said she hopes that bringing back the Science Circus will give Missoula children the opportunity to find amazement in science. 

“I love science and there’s so much wonder in it,” she said. “Everyone needs to experience it, that’s my goal.”